Tough conditions in camp
A 19-year-old Kingsland resident has spent seven months volunteering in a Palestinian refugee camp.
Ella McCarthy was studying marine biology, French and Maori at the University of Auckland before deciding she needed to escape her daily routine.
She travelled around Europe and decided she wanted to spend a month volunteering.
A quick Google search led her to volunteer work helping Echlas Al-Azzeh, a 42-year-old woman with muscular dystrophy living in al-Azza refugee camp in Bethlehem.
‘‘[The camp] is not an easy place to live. All the houses are really close together.
There’s no space for anything and there’s noise all the time. It’s really different from Auckland,’’ Ella says.
‘‘When you’re there you just feel how stagnant the whole thing [conflict] is. It’s like nothing is moving and it’s slowly getting worse. It’s so frustrating.’’
Her mother Leigh McCarthy has not seen Ella in more than a year but supports her daughter’s decisions.
‘‘She always does a lot of work for different organisations. She started volunteering at Greenpeace when she was 12. ‘‘I’m incredibly proud of her.’’ She worried about Ella going to Palestine but also realised anywhere in the world could be dangerous. ‘‘You hear and you read things [about Palestine] but you don’t know what’s going on until you’re there.
‘‘Ella’s there, she lives there every day and knows what’s actually going on.’’
Ella has been helping Al-Azzeh get extra income by selling copies of a calendar she created to people back home in New Zealand.
Her family and the Students for Justice in Palestine group at the University of Auckland are helping distribute it.
Al-Azzeh says she likes to make her calendars educational and cover a different subject every year.
‘‘The topic for this year was political prisoners,’’ she says.
She and her young carer are in Germany attending a disability workshop, after which they will part ways.
‘‘We’ll pretend goodbye,’’ Ella says.
Good friends: Ella McCarthy, 19, volunteered to look after Echlas Al-Azzeh who lives in a refugee camp in Bethlehem, Palestine.